Is ‘MH370 wreckage’ found in the Maldives actually just a broken surfboard?

Agence France-Presse and Staff Reporter

Images of debris that Maldivian Mohamed Wafir says washed up on a resort beach more than a month ago. Photo: Facebook

The Maldives joined a regional search for wreckage from missing flight MH370 following reports that islanders in the Indian ocean atoll nation had discovered unidentified debris, police said.

But despite images of the debris drawing worldwide attention, and being widely described as consistent with plane wreckage, the construction of the material also appears very similar to that of an unusual make of surfboard.

Maldivian police are responding to several sightings of debris washed up along the northern atolls of the archipelago, some of which occurred about a month ago, a police spokesman said.

Authorities were alerted to the sightings yesterday.

“There is new attention to these sightings after the discovery at Reunion,” the spokesman said referring to a wing part found in late July on the French territory located 3,200km south-west of the Maldives.

This image shows a cross-section of an aluminium-core surfboard manufactured by Varial Surf Technology. Photo: Varial Surf Technology

A close-up look at the distinctive cross-section of some of the debris found in the Maldives. Photo: Facebook

After that discovery, the Malaysian authorities alerted nearby Madagascar and the South African coast as possible locations for debris to wash up. The Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius has also joined the search.

Mohamed Shareef, a minister at the Maldivian President’s office, said officials were working closely with the Malaysian aviation authorities in seeking to identify any possible debris from the missing aircraft.

“We are collecting any unidentified debris and storing them in a warehouse so that the Malaysians can carry out tests and determine if it is from their plane or not,” Shareef said.

READ MORE: How a missing plane and graft scandal are testing Malaysia’s PM Najib Razak

“We ourselves are not doing any testing, but we have sent photographs of what we found and await their response.”

Mohamed Wafir posted images on Facebook of debris with a distinctive honeycomb construction that he said washed up on the Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru resort beach more than a month ago. Larger pieces of debris were taken to a dump site on another island before the potential significance was realised. However, a single small chunk of the debris about 10cm long was retained and was collected by Maldives police on Friday.

Although some social media users suggested the design of the material resembled that of aviation-related material, it also appeared very similar to the aluminium honeycomb construction of some surfboards.

According to Varial Surf Technology, based in California, its surfboards use “high modulus cores, standard in the aerospace industry”. The aluminium honeycomb technology is applied to Varial boards “in order to maximize buckling strength and minimize weight”. Comment on the Maldives debris was being sought from Varial.

The small chunk of the debris that was handed over to Maldivian police on Friday. The rest was sent to a garbage dump. Photo: Facebook

Shareef said the Maldives had shared defence radar and surveillance data with Malaysia following reports last year that an unidentified airliner had been seen flying low over some of the islets shortly after the MH370 went missing.

“We checked radar data and other information from that day and the answer was negative. There was no big jet liner over that area and we shared that information with the Malaysian authorities,” Shareef said.

The Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8 last year, sparking the largest multinational search operation in history, now focused on the southern Indian Ocean based on satellite data hinting at the plane’s path.


A French military transport crew member inspecting the Indian Ocean during a search mission along the coast near Saint-Andre on the French island of Reunion. Photo: Reuters

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 August, 2015, 1:19am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 August, 2015, 7:21am